Key Concepts Can Prevent Childhood Obesity

Teach Your Children Well: Prevent the Onset of Obesity

Key Concepts Prevent Obesity

Early concepts that relate directly to lifelong eating habits and weight management are delay of gratification, self-regulation and a sense of “enough.”

Delay of Gratification

From the perspective of eating and early development, delay of gratification begins with parental influence. Barring any health issues, this shift requires a transition from on-demand nursing to robust yet less frequent feedings. Instead of satisfying every fussy sound with a nipple, we engage in other behaviors such as distraction with objects, interactions, or activities. Delay of gratification teaches elements of patience. Importantly it lays the foundation for the development of trust. The infant may have to wait to eat, but they learn that they’ll be fed and the experience will be satisfying. Delay of gratification can positively influence self-reliance with regard to meeting needs unrelated to comfort and set the course for learning emotional self-regulation.


Delay of gratification is key to self-regulation. When parents regulate feeding times and control portion size then self-regulated eating behavior and learning can develop. As infants, we’ll eat what we need to have enough energy to make it to the next feeding. If we don’t eat enough; we become hungry and irritable. If we eat too much, or too quickly, we’ll likely to redecorate our environment (as well as becoming hungry and irritable).

Exposure to different environments is important during this period as this encourages the development of tolerance, and more importantly, resilience. Increased tolerance results in less dramatic responses to routine sensory inputs. Increased resilience is shown to reduce the incidence and magnitude of depressive disorders.


In an era of social influences that glorify excess, it’s difficult to appreciate the concept of “enough”. We know that to manage our weight we generally have to limit quantities and focus on quality. This runs counter to the culture of fast food and nutritionally deficient super-sized meals. If we don’t set healthy limits for children early on, we can’t expect self-regulation to develop. Think about how many children scream in protest when a parent takes away an Ipad or other electronic device. I have witnessed incredible temper tantrums in my waiting room when these devices are routinely used to control (pacify) behavior. If children don’t learn “enough” as it relates to food; it’s unlikely to be present any other time they want some form of stimulation.

Key Concepts & BREAKTHROUGH!

Switching gears to the program. If we weren’t taught these concepts early in life we’re likely facing the challenge of retraining our brain. Here’s a brief approach working through the 4Rs:

RECOGNITION: We learn what’s good for us

RESISTANCE: We develop resistance by consistently regulating portion sizes

RESILIENCE: As we lose weight we learn that we’re happy with “enough”

RECOVERY: We only purchase “enough”


From a global perspective most cultures embrace the notion that good behavior, or the achievement of goals should be rewarded with treats. For many, this might involve a trip to get ice cream, candy, or fast food. From a learning perspective, this introduces the concept of secondary reward reinforcement. We don’t just eat sugar or high-fat foods when we’re low on energy or unhappy, we also consume them as celebration when things are going well. We’ve accepted the premise that even when we feel happy we can (or should) do something that will make us feel even better. It’s this mood-altering drive that can ultimately lead to the maladaptive use, dependence and addiction to food.

This discussion is just one of many from the BreakThrough! program and workbook. For more information please browse the Program Information or BreakThrough! Blog. If you’re ready to make a change click on this link I’m Ready to schedule your free BreakThrough! appointment

Heather Hamilton